Monday, 27 October 2014

Add on from last night.

This article in the Daily Mail (similar articles appeared elsewhere )  pretty much sums up my feelings about certain parents and children. I'm fine with kids in public places, seriously - of course I am, I've told all my friends with children to take them to the Chapman's exhibition - they all love it, kids will usually know their limits unless the parents give them too much latitude.

I have a friend who I have known many years who, when their children were young, would take them to restaurants and let them run riot while the grown-ups were eating, her reaction to any comment was indignation and fury - 'let children be children' is fine as long as you are prepared to pay for all the meals of the other diners who have had their evening ruined. My sister explained to me years ago that once you have kids you learn how to tune-out of the noise they make - I've seen this for myself, a group of mothers can sit in a coffee shop chatting away quite happily while their children terrorise the rest of the customers at 200 decibels, I seem to remember another article where a coffee shop had come under fire for asking a small group of well heeled women to control their children, the owner explained that every day - 4 stay at home mothers with giant baby buggies would arrive late morning, order one drink each and spend several hours letting their children take over, it had driven all the other punters away and the business was at the point of collapse, the owners explained this and suggested they come in later after lunch when the shop was quiet and after they had actually made some money - but the mothers reaction was to complain in the local press, boycott the coffee shop and start a campaign to get it closed down. I seem to remember that this was in Altringham.

When I taught I would come into contact with adolescents who had the most phenomenal sense of entitlement, they refused to accept criticism, would react with indignation or horror (and occasionally tears) when asked to do something and seemed to be immune to any obligations, standards of behaviour or moral code. It took me a while to realise that it really was the parents that had bred these monsters. Mum and dad would regularly interfere with the students education (even though they were not actually allowed to ) constant call up and spend hours on the phone over trivia, refuse to accept that their darlings were anything other than geniuses, threaten to sue over bizarre things, expect us to spy on them and consider the staff 'the enemy' - all the time refusing to accept their children were growing up, trying to treat them like 'mates' (I wish I had a pound for every time anyone said 'my daughter is my best friend' - when I already knew they most certainly were not) and meeting parents dressed exactly as their adolescents, which is just plain wrong.

I was on a train recently with about 8 or 9 teenage girls, they were all groomed, self absorbed, jabbering away about nothing and they reminded me of the Eloi in H.G.Welles 'Time Machine'. Placid, thoughtless, innocent child-adults with no care or interest in anything but pleasure and vacant existence. We weren't like that when I was their age, we were very different. We were practical, resourceful, driven, inventive, motivated - we didn't have any choice - the world was a harsh place and if you didn't fight, you sank into nothing. I don't know anyone from that time who had help from their parents, even the kids with money - 'mum and dad' were quite happy to let go at the first possible moment - not come along for the ride. My peer group did really well, much better than I could have anticipated - there was a real problem with heroin in my part of the North West - it was sink or swim - if you didn't get away there was nothing for you, some got left behind and are still there but others have taken their chances and become many great things - from my small group of friends there are teachers, university lecturers, a magazine editor, one of the countries most respected occupational therapists, engineers, a guy who designs jet engines and writers - and we all came from a shitty little town with no shops, nowhere to 'grab a cappuchino', a terrible library that required you to be accompanied by an adult to see a reference book ( at the age of 13 I would have to ask a library assistant if I could sit at a table with a copy of 'Janes All The World's Aircraft' looking up references for my Airfix kits and she would sit next to me in case I tore the pages out and presumably tried to eat them), even the kids that went into the army did well - although they have probably all 'retired' by now and live in Jersey or something.

I'm really glad I'm not young now, it's too easy, which sounds perverse, and I'm envious - but it wouldn't suit me. I'm not glad I'm old ( and in this youth obsessed society - 48 is fucking ancient) but I'd never be able to compete in the way I did then. It's just too unfair.


Anna said...

Oh, so very well said!

Steerforth said...

I would never claim to be a successful parent, but one thing I have done is teach my sons is to behave in a public place, whether it's an art gallery or a cafe, because I've never forgotten how annoying it is when a place is ruined by children running around and shouting.

Interestingly, my children find other children annoying too and prefer to be with grown-ups.

Post a Comment